The Galactic Republic is on the verge of collapse as a result of the Clone Wars, which have been waged between the Republic and the Separatists for three years. In a surprise move, General Grievous, commander of the Separatist Droid Army, kidnaps Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and attempts to escape. During a battle over the planet Coruscant, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker lead a mission to rescue the Chancellor, who is being held captive on Grievous’s flagship. There they confront Count Dooku in a lightsaber duel; at the end of the duel, Anakin hesitantly kills Dooku at Palpatine’s urging. The Jedi free the Chancellor and attempt to escape the battle-torn flagship, but Grievous traps them inside and escapes. Anakin pilots the collapsing flagship to safety on Coruscant. There, Anakin reunites with his wife, Padmé Amidala, who reveals that she is pregnant. Anakin is overjoyed with this news until he begins having recurring nightmares of Padmé dying in childbirth, similar to the visions he had of his mother before she died. Anakin resolves to prevent these visions from coming true.
Palpatine, concerned about the Jedi’s motives, places Anakin on the Jedi Council to be his eyes and ears. Meanwhile, the Jedi Council has begun to suspect Palpatine of corruption and orders Anakin to spy on him, while also denying the young Jedi the rank of Jedi Master out of additional distrust of him. Under Palpatine’s influence, Anakin begins to grow distrustful of his fellow Jedi, and is intrigued when Palpatine mentions the power to prevent death, an ability only gained through the dark side of the Force. Obi-Wan, meanwhile, is sent to the planet Utapau where he engages and kills General Grievous. Back on Coruscant, Palpatine reveals himself to Anakin as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who has been controlling both sides of the war. Anakin reports Palpatine’s treachery to Jedi Master Mace Windu, who engages and subdues the Sith Lord in a lightsaber duel. Believing that Sidious is his only hope to save Padmé, Anakin intervenes and literally disarms Windu before he can execute Sidious, allowing the Sith Lord to kill the Jedi Master. Palpatine takes advantage of Anakin’s emotionally drained mind to submit him to the dark side and becomes Sidious’s new apprentice, Darth Vader.
Darth Sidious initiates a pre-programmed directive within all clone troopers to kill their Jedi commanders, while Vader kills all the Jedi within the Jedi Temple, Knights, Padawans, and Younglings alike. Obi-Wan and Yoda survive the extermination, and meet up with Senator Bail Organa, who brings them to the Jedi Temple while Palpatine reorganizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor. Vader, meanwhile, heads to the volcanic planet of Mustafar, where he slaughters the remaining Separatist leaders. Within the Jedi Temple, Obi-Wan witnesses security footage of Anakin’s massacre as Darth Vader. Yoda tells Obi-Wan that they must kill the Sith Lords if they are to restore peace. Obi-Wan begs Yoda to send him to kill the Emperor, but Yoda tells him to confront and kill Vader; Obi-Wan isn’t strong enough to face the Emperor and he must accept that the friend he had known and loved as a brother is gone forever.
Obi-Wan meets with Padmé, who refuses to believe that her husband has fallen to the dark side. She travels to Mustafar to be with him, unaware that Obi-Wan has secretly stowed aboard. Once she confronts Vader, however, she realizes that Obi-Wan was telling the truth. Spotting Obi-Wan within her ship, Vader accuses Padmé of betraying him and uses the Force to strangle her into unconsciousness. Obi-Wan and Vader engage in an epic lightsaber duel across the volcanic facility and over a river of lava. Finally, Obi-Wan gains the upper hand and, acting on a critical misjudgment from his former friend, swiftly dismembers Vader. Vader slides down a bank of volcanic ash and bursts into flames, while Obi-Wan picks up Anakin’s lightsaber and leaves him to die. Obi-Wan escorts the injured Padmé to the asteroid Polis Massa where he regroups with Senator Organa and Yoda, the latter of whom has gone into self-imposed exile after dueling Darth Sidious to a stalemate. Meanwhile, Sidious finds his maimed apprentice and takes him back to Coruscant to revive him.
Padmé gives birth to twins, a boy named Luke and a girl named Leia, and dies, but not before insisting to Obi-Wan that there is still good in Anakin. Meanwhile, Sidious has Darth Vader rebuilt in black cybernetic body armor to keep him alive. When Vader asks for Padmé, Sidious tells him that she died as a result of Vader’s anger. This revelation breaks what remains of Anakin’s spirit, and he screams in torment. He is last seen at Sidious’ side, overseeing the construction of the Death Star. With Anakin’s children the last hope for the galaxy, Obi-Wan, Yoda and Organa agree that they should be hidden and separate from one another. Leia is taken to Alderaan to be raised by Organa, while Obi-Wan takes Luke to Tatooine to live with his uncle Owen and aunt Beru.
I really don’t think there has been a movie charged with having to accomplish as much as this one. It had the unenviable task of filling in the time span between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars. During this time, it had to be explained how Yoda and Obi-Wan ended up being the only remaining Jedi and how they ended up in exile, how did Anakin become Darth Vader, how did Palpatine age so much and become the Emperor, how did the Death Star get built, and a multitude of other questions. Many of these questions are answered, but the last 20 minutes or so seem rushed into trying to tie up all the loose ends that weren’t answered already.
On more than one occasion it has been said that Hayden Christiansen has ruined the saga with his bad acting. I won’t go so far as to say that, but he is very robotic and unfeeling in his delivery. Having said that, it is my belief that George Lucas picked him as Anakin for this very film. The lack of humanity is perfect for Anakin’s turn to the dark side.
Ewan McGregor brilliantly portrays the conflict Obi-Wan feels as he must face his pupil and possibly kill him. His empassioned exlamations after chopping off his limbs says it all. I think the original Obi-Wan Kenobi, Alec Guiness would be proud of McGregor’s turn with this character.
Natalie Portman doesn’t really have much to do in this picture except walk around hugging Anakin everytime he walks into the room. That is, until he chokes her into unconsciousness before the climactic battle with Obi-Wan. As the film draws to a close, though, she gives birth to Luke and Leia, and shows off her real talent for emotional depth as she portrays the pain of Anakin breaking her heart and giving birth to twins.
Samuel L. Jackson had it written into his contract that when Mace Windu died, he wouldn’t die as “a bitch”. From what I’ve read and know, Windu is quite the master swordsman, so his final battle with Senator Palpatine was no surprise, though I don’t think being shot of a window by Palpatine playing ‘possum as a ploy to get Anakin to defend him was how he wanted to die.
I think of all 6 Star Warsfilms, this is the one that spends the least amount of time in space. That doesn’t take away from the great battles that are had, though. Yoda vs. the Emperor, Obi-Wan vs. General Grievous. Mace Windu vs. Senator Palpatine, and of course Obi- Wan vs. Anakin.
While many characters make their last appearance here (Count Dooku, Viceroy Gunnry, Padme), we are introduced to some new ones (General Grievous, Darth Vader, the Wookies), some that will be very prominent as the saga moves forward.
As the film concludes, we see Anakin getting fitted with his Darth Vader apparatus, as Padme is giving birth. As the helmet goes down and locks into lace, you can hear the strains of the “Imperial March” and then with a lock and a hiss, there is a moment of silence followed by Vader’s unforgettable breathing pattern. I tell you this gives me chills every time, especially when I saw it in theaters. Those same chills came to me when James Earl Jones took his rightful place as Vader’s voice.
As far as the prequels go, this and Clones battle for the honor of being my favorite. I wish the ending wasn’t so rushed and crammed. To me, it makes it seem as though they just wanted to get everything done and out of the way in those few minutes. The lightsaber duels are epic, especially the climactic battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin. I would have liked to have gotten a bit more Padme, but that’s just my personal preference.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars